Twitter gave a gold check to a bogus, racial-slur-spewing Disney Junior account

April 24, 2023, 4:15 PM UTC
Photo illustration by Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images

When SpaceX’s Starship exploded Thursday, it was at least a learning experience, as CEO Elon Musk noted afterwards. But when it comes to Twitter—and in particular its verification system—the man seems incapable of learning anything at all.

When Musk first rolled out the Twitter Blue paid verification system last year, it had to be paused owing to a wave of impostor accounts that seriously harmed the company’s standing with advertisers. The program swiftly returned, but still with little more than phone number verification to establish that the user is who they say they are. 

If that already seemed shaky, what’s happened in the past few days feels more like Twitter’s wheels are properly coming off. Apart from being Starship Day, Thursday was also when Musk finally removed “legacy” blue checks from accounts that don’t pay for the privilege. That was supposed to encourage celebrities and other former blue check holders (such as yours truly) to pony up $8 a month, but it backfired quite spectacularly.

After mere hundreds of legacy check holders decided to pay, Twitter quickly began returning blue checks to high-profile individuals who hadn’t asked for them, and who in some cases had been very public about that decision. Thereafter followed one of the most bizarre episodes in recent tech history, with everyone from Stephen King to the Auschwitz Memorial denying paying Musk, and with Weird Twitter mainstay “dril”—a notable critic of the paid verification scheme—repeatedly changing his username so as to shed the blue check that Twitter kept assigning him.

This is all mind-bendingly dumb on several levels. For a start, the uncoolness of the blue check is now firmly established, to a degree that Twitter itself implicitly confirms when it foists the mark on unwilling people as an apparent act of trolling. The company is waging war on prominent users, and it’s doing so by lying about them becoming paid subscribers. That isn’t merely obnoxious—as Irish lawyer Simon McGarr pointed out in a blog post today, Twitter’s actions may break Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, while also falling foul of U.K. rules on false endorsement.

But wait, it gets wackier because Twitter also appears to be placing gold check marks—which are supposed to be for businesses paying $1,000 a month—where they really don’t belong.

Disney used to have a TV channel called Disney Junior UK, which it shuttered in 2020, at the same time closing down the associated Twitter account. At some point between then and now, Twitter user @7virtues_ set up or renamed an account with the @DisneyJuniorUK handle, then used it to publish offensive content, including racial slurs. And this morning, they announced that their @DisneyJuniorUK account had been granted the gold check. “This isn’t actually real right. Someone fucking pinch me or something,” they wrote in a tweet that went viral. According to @7virtues_, the gold check had “just appeared out of nowhere.”

The notoriously litigious Disney quickly noticed the hubbub and complained to Twitter, leading to the bogus account’s suspension within a couple of hours—but not before the scale of Twitter’s verification car crash became painfully apparent. Twitter’s management has taken what was supposed to be a revenue generator and turned it into both a trolling tool and, owing to its clueless and capricious deployment, a massive liability.

It’s all very entertaining unless you’re a company, artist, or Holocaust memorial trying to protect your reputation.

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David Meyer


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